Downton Abbey Recap: Series 5, Episode 3

Literally everyone ships Carson and Mrs. Hughes, I think. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited
Literally everyone ships Carson and Mrs. Hughes, I think. (Photo: Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited
Previously, on Downton Abbey: Anna has to go shopping for Mary’s secret weekend getaway with Tony Gillingham. Related: Mary is the worst employer ever. Carson and Robert argue over the best spot for the village war memorial; Baxter tells Molesley the truth; Rose becomes obsessed with getting a wireless; Tom struggles with his internal identity for the 50th time and guest star Richard E. Grant arrives.  For more, see last week’s recap.)

Allrighty, guys. Let’s do this. 

Mary and Gillingham’s “Romantic” Trip is Underway. Well, let’s just get right to it then, shall we? Our episode opens with Mary and Gillingham in bed together. He’s staring at her like a serial killer but Mary just makes a dull joke about how it hasn’t taken her long to getting used to sharing a bed again. They kiss, but luckily our collective eyeballs are saved by the arrival of room service, which means that Gillingham has to flee back across to his room for a bit, though I’m wondering why they’re wasting the effort when it’s very obvious that both sides of her bed were slept in but whatever. Anyway, Gillingham comes back and it’s time for more awkward and completely unsexy humor about how they’ve “worked up an appetite” for breakfast and I suddenly find myself wondering what would happen if I just threw myself out of a window and didn’t finish this recap ever at all. 

Gillingham has clearly assumed that their week-long holiday has been a home run, because he’s already talking about how everything’s settled now and they’re basically going to end up getting married as soon as they’re back in the real world. Mary seems less than enthusiastic about this, only saying that she still doesn’t want to get caught here because she’s had enough scandal attached to her, thank you. Gillingham kisses her again and heads off to fetch his own breakfast next door. Mary’s face falls as soon as he’s left the room, which sort of leaves you to wonder how well she thought this whole sexual chemistry test business has gone. 

And Now the Cops Are Here. Carson has tea with that local cop that showed up last week asking questions about Gillingham’s former valet, Green. Apparently a witness has come forward to say she heard Green ask a mystery person Why have you come before he was killed, so Nice Cop has come to Downton to investigate because Green at some point told the other servants he worked with that he’d quarreled with someone there.  Carson gets judgey because he remembers Green as being overly high-spirited throughout his stay and complains about the fact that he was always getting the staff to play that dumb Racing Demon game all the time. He tells the cop that he was probably the one staff member who disliked Green the most.

After Nice Cop leaves, Carson goes straight to Mrs. Hughes to fill her in on everything. Because that’s what Carson does. He tells her that the servants or the police must have confused Downton with some other place and asks if she remembers anyone having bad feelings towards the dead man. Mrs. Hughes, who is a tremendously champion liar, says no. But, like the worst game of telephone you’ve ever seen, she then goes straight to Anna, to fill her in on everything. She wants to know whether she thinks that Bates ever figured out what Green did to her, and gets upset when Mrs. Hughes has to say she doesn’t know. She’s very worried the authorities will try to make out like Bates is the guilty party here and say he was in London after all on the day Green died. (You have to remember that Anna actually doesn’t know everything that Mrs. Hughes and Mary do, and that she’s not aware that Bates was in London for some reason which is probably murder.) Anna’s also firmly convinced that the police will find out somehow that Green attacked her and it will all lead back to her husband in the end. Mrs. Hughes tries to comfort her, saying that she and Mary are the only other two people who know anything about what happened, but Anna remains unconvinced. At some point someone is going to have to tell her about that train ticket that was in Bates’s pocket, but I don’t know who’s going to have the courage for that. 

The Dowager Countess is Terrifying and Awesome. Uh oh. Guess that Mary and Gillingham aren’t exactly the James Bond of affair-having after all, since they both leave the hotel together and kiss goodbye in the street. As they are Liverpool, this would probably be fine normally, but for the fact that the Dowager Countess’ butler, Vile Spratt, is in Liverpool for a wedding and sees them together. Womp womp.

Spratt, because he is Vile, takes this information straight to Violet, clearly hoping to shock her with the news of her granddaughter’s scandalous ways (as is evidenced by how little he doesn’t try to not tell her). He spills that he saw Mary in Liverpool with Gillingham and that they’d clearly been staying in the same hotel together. Violet’s face is amazing for about .5 seconds before she totally just starts lying about it. She says that of course she knew they were both staying there because they were going to some Northern landowner’s conference or some such. She even gets confrontational about it, asking Spratt what exactly he thought he saw, and declaring that she hopes it wasn’t anything beneath a butler of her house. Spratt splutters a few times and basically runs away. Wow. The Dowager Countess is amazing, y’all.

Rose’s Russian Refugees. “Rose’s Russian Refugees” is totally my new band name, by the way.  Anyway, now that Rose has successfully acquired a wireless for the household, she needs a new storyline, so we learn that she’s has been spending more and more time with the group of refugee Russian aristocrats in York that she seems to have adopted, despite never having displayed the slightest interest in politics or, you know, where Russia is on a map. Whatever!

She asks to bring them all to Downton to see the countryside and Robert offers to dig out the Crawleys’ personal collection of Russian souvenirs and things from when his parents visited in 1874. Rose is super excited about this, because her Russians seem to enjoy getting depressed and nostalgic about relics from life under the tsar.  Who wants to give odds on whether she even knows what a tsar is?  

Somehow Baxter is Still Not Fired. Baxter, who is still not fired or un-fired, finally has had enough of the constant limbo that is her employment situation and tells Cora that she really needs to know an answer one way or another. Cora decides that if Baxter can tell her the rest of the story – because for some reason that no one has bothered to tell us she is convinced that there’s more to the situation than mere theft – then she’ll give her a decision about whether she can keep her job. And I have to keep reminding myself how hard it would be for Baxter to find a job like this with her history because at this point Cora’s constant need to string her along is infuriating. After all, she’s not promising that Baxter can stay if she offers up this piece of totally irrelevant and totally personal information, merely that she’ll decide whether she can stay. And a big part of me wants Baxter to tell Cora to stick it.

Baxter does not do this, of course, which sucks, because Cora deserves it. Baxter fills Molesley in on Cora’s ultimatum, and is torn about. She says that maybe Cora has a right to hear the rest of the story, but once it’s told she never wants the mess mentioned again. Molesley – who is so so much smarter than anyone on this show gives him credit for – points out that that can be Baxter’s condition of telling the story in the first place, and then maybe she can stay. 

The Crawleys’ Marriage is Very Strange. Cora is going to London for a dress fitting and also to have a look round the art museums with her former houseguest and new bestie Simon Bricker. She asks if Robert can come along with her, but he brushes it off, since he’s got some meeting to attend and has been paying absolutely zero attention to his wife’s boring speeches about how she misses feeling useful, like she did back when she was running the in-house hospital during the war. Robert seems to spend an extraordinary amount of time ignoring his wife – as is evidenced by his comment last week about Bricker flirting with Isis instead of noticing him making cow eyes at Cora – and I often suspect he would be a tremendously difficult person to be married to, in the end.

Anyway, Robert ‘s meeting gets cancelled and he uddenly decides that he’s going to go up to London anyway and surprise Cora while she’s there. Despite Mary’s dire warnings about how wretched surprises are, Robert’s just convinced that it’ll be a real treat for his wife to have him show up out of nowhere and disrupt all her plans, which he assumes are nonexistent. Surely this is going to end well. 


Rejoice, Lord Gillingham May Not Be the One! Anna grills Mary about her naughty weekend away with the King of Stalkers. She asks when the two of them are going to set a wedding date now that they’ve survived sex with one another. Mary makes a bunch of noncommittal comments and Anna is horrified that this means that she thinks Lord Gillingham is going to try to get out of it. Mary says that’s not true, she just doesn’t see why they need to rush into anything when there’s really no hurry. Basically, this is all I need to start assuming that their getaway trip and/or relations must have gone horribly, because this is absolutely the way that someone who is currently plotting a break-up speech reacts.  Yesssss.

Mary also continues her reign as the World’s Worst Employer by asking Anna to take her sexual instruction manual and whatever the creepily unnamed bedroom supplies are that she made her buy for her at the pharmacy and hide them for her. She insists that she can’t keep them at Donwton because Cora or Edith or a maid could uncover them, but apparently it’s totally cool to ask her obviously woefully underpaid ladies’ maid to smuggle them out to her own home and keep them there, just on the off chance that Mary wants to pop off somewhere again to sleep with a guy she’s not married to again. Last week, I thought Anna needed a raise, this week I’m pretty sure she deserves hazard pay.

The Cops Are Interested in Bates Again. The Super Polite Police Officer returns to Downton, this time with questions for Carson about Bates. He says that apparently he now knows that Green totally hated Bates, because he told Gillingham’s butler, and now he wants to interview Bates about the whole situation. Um, it doesn’t actually appear that Polite Cop has done anything like research into Bates’ previous vaguely criminal past, which I guess we’re supposed to think is normal, but seems super weird for someone who is ostensibly conducting a murder investigation. Oh, well, I guess, not everyone can be Sarah Koenig.

Bates sits down with Polite Cop, who quizzes him about his trip to York a million years ago. (Seriously how long ago did that happen in real time?) Bates goes through a laundry list of boring activities – getting coffee, sending a letter, shopping for shows – and for the moment this seems to satisfy the police officer, who declares that things seem in order. Anna, who’s been standing outside, is all sort of upset and wants to know why Green would make up some kind of grudge or whatever. Bates says it’s almost as though Green were expecting him to make trouble and did all this just in case he did. Dun dun… 

Everyone is Talking About Sex This Season. Mary is summoned to visit her grandmother for an unknown reason that pretty quickly becomes known once Spratt tells her he hopes she enjoyed the sights of Liverpool. Spratt is definitely vile, but he sure is hilariously awkward. Mary looks horrified, and it’s sort of fantastic.

Anyway, Mary and Violet have to sit down and discuss all the dirt about Mary’s naughty weekend, and it’s simultaneously amazing and incredibly uncomfortable. Mary tries to explain that old people like the Dowager just can’t understand that people can have sexual relations now in this new modern world, but Violet’s not having any of that. She says that it’s shocking behavior in 1924 to people of any generation. She worriedly asks whether there’s a chance of a proposal and is visibly relieved when Mary says that Gillingham has already asked her. Mary’s being flippant about things – another total clue that she is absolutely not psyched about the prospect of life as Gillingham’s wife – and says they haven’t made any decisions yet about weddings or announcements or blah. Violet tells her she better get on with it soon, because there’s no sense in a girl letting a guy who’s seduced her get out of doing the right thing. Violet is so judgy here, especially about the real risks to Mary’s reputation and while you could make the argument she’s being a big old fashioned, it sort of makes sense when you realize that she does know that Mary’s already suffered through a scandal involving a dead man in her bed. 

Cora and Her New BFF Have Adventures in London Cora and Simon Bricker head to the National Gallery to look at art. Cora spends a lot of time providing boring art opinions, while Bricker spends a lot of time staring at Cora and telling her how brilliant she is. They wander about and look at what must be every piece of art in the entire museum and then they decide to go out for dinner together instead of Cora going back to Rosamund’s and if this weren’t sort of inappropriate it would actually be sort of sweet, because Cora actually seems happy and engaged with what’s happening around her, rather than, you know, trying to blackmail secrets out of her maid. I don’t know.

The two decide that they’re having a great day, so they’ll just send a telegram to Rosamund’s to let her know that Cora won’t be back for dinner after all, and they head off to the Ritz for food and more discussion of all the paintings they’ve seen that day.  (“I probably shouldn’t, but I guess I will,” is going to be my new way of accepting invitations from now on, by the way.) 

Baxter’s Confession, Part Two. Cora decides that she can accept Baxter’s condition about never mentioning her story again if she just comes out with the full truth. There’s a whole lot that’s uncomfortable here about just why Cora thinks she’s entitled to this information when she already knows the facts of Baxter’s crimes, but whatever.

It turns out – because of course it does, and I don’t know what to tell you if you thought this story was going to go anywhere more interesting – that there was a footman who also worked in the house where Baxter stole, named Peter Coyle. He was handsome and Baxter was swoony in love with him, even though he was cruel and harsh. She says that being with him made her a nasty, bad person, but she didn’t stop. Coyle handed in his notice and that night Baxter stole the jewelry for him. She was supposed to meet up with him later, but he just took the jewels and disappeared and she never heard from him again. So, Baxter ended up taking the whole blame for the robbery, and says she deserved it because she was ashamed of how he’d changed her. Cora asks wouldn’t it make a difference if she just told the police the truth about that now, but Baxter refuses. 

Edith is So Not Subtle and It Causes a Problem. Another day, another trip to Yewtree Farm. This time, Edith’s meant to be babysitting while Mrs. Drewe (what on earth is her first name anyway) takes one of the other children to the dentist. Mrs. Drewe returns with her son in tow and freaks out when she can’t find Edith or Marigold around the house. For one brief amazing moment, I think that Edith’s gone crazy and kidnapped the baby and this storyline is about to get interesting at last, but no, of course that’s not happening.

Edith has just taken Marigold out onto the farm to look at chickens or something, while she hangs out with Drewe. Mrs. Drewe basically snatches the girl away from Edith and is obviously so very upset abou this whole situation, but Edith just keeps right on being Edith and ignores everything. She even suggests that she’ll come back to visit again the next day, despite the fact that Mrs. Drewe is basically holding up a sign that says GET OUT in big neon lettering. Oh, Edith. 

After Edith leaves, Mrs. Drewe finally unloads on her husband about this incredibly bizarre situation he’s landed their family in. She says that the Edith problem has got to stop – she says she’s sorry Edith’s lonely and sorry she wants a child but she can’t have theirs and that’s final. She says she can’t be expected to put up with Edith basically being in their pockets for the next fifteen years until Marigold gets old enough for her to do something for her. She then even sort of accuses her husband of being sweet on Edith, which would probably be more shocking or funny or at least interesting if I didn’t harbor a secret dread about that being just where this storyline is going to go, someday. Drewe basically tells his wife to shut up, which is totally mature and reassuring. 

Surprise, Robert Can Get Jealous! After dinner, Bricker walks Cora back to Rosamund’s and they talk about how much she loves London. She tells him a bit more about her past, and how she moved from Cincinnati to New York to London to find a husband and make the best match possible given the big pile of new money her family had. She recounts feeling awkward in the drawing rooms of the elite, but Bricker says he’s sure she must have been the most original and charming and real woman there. He is incredibly awkward but his interest in Cora seems genuine, and she sure loves having someone call her pretty again and listen to her talk about herself. Before Cora heads inside, Bricker tells her what a good time he had and asks if they might please do it again in future. Cora says probably not, but she hears just the offer is a compliment and wow that took me a bit too long to catch they were apparently talking about something way different than a late night stroll?

Anyway, Cora strolls into Rosamund’s, apologizing for being so late and missing dinner, to find Robert waiting for her, fuming, because Robert has exactly zero concept of how anyone might be doing anything ever that isn’t strictly connected to him. Cora’s actually excited to see her idiot husband, and apologizes about missing out on his plans, but Robert’s sort of a jerk about everything, and is so very irritated at the fact that Cora was out and about with another man. Cora doesn’t understand what she did wrong, but Robert basically says that it’s obvious there’s no way an art expert like Bricker could ever want to talk about paintings with her because Cora isn’t smart enough to discuss it. Burnnnn. Now Cora’s hurt and angry and stomps off upstairs to bed. 

Mary’s Definitely Waffling Now. Tom and Mary have a nightcap where they discuss Edith’s recent weird behavior and then admit that they’re both torn about what they want to do with their futures. Mary admits that she’s not entirely sure anymore that Tony Gillingham is The One, and that while she thought she’d settled on him, now she appears to have “unsettled”. She looks torn and unsure, and admits that she hadn’t spent that much time with Gillingham at all until recently, and now that she has, she’s not sure they have that much in common. This revelation feels…weird in the sense that it is sort of unearned, given how much time Mary spent last season going on about how she and Gillingham were the same sort of person who both understood the burden of being modern day aristocrats or some nonsense. But, since I despise this relationship, I can’t really bring myself to get but so worked up about it, even though there’s basically an admission that Mary’s judgement was fogged by lust or something. Ick.

Rose’s Russian Tea is Eventful. Rose brings her troupe of Russian refugees to see Downton, have tea and see its collection of various tsar-related items. Isobel has convinced the Dowager to attend as well since she’s the only one of them who’s actually ever even been to Russia.

Tony Gillingham shows up unannounced to see Mary, who looks awkward and makes the most amazing face, like it’s an interwar version of that moment when you run into some guy you danced up on at a club while you were drunk, but now barely remember sober. It’s hilarious. She pretends like she’s glad to see him, even when he wants to start talking about like wedding planning or whatever. 

Cora decides to let Baxter keep her job. Hurray! (Though if I’m honest, I’m mostly happy for Molesley’s sake. Though I feel like they’ve said the name of her footman ex so many times there’s no way we aren’t seeing him at some point.)

Drewe comes to see Edith and tells her that his wife Margy (finally, a name!) has had enough of her being all around their farm, and for now she must stay away from them all. Edith runs through the house crying, smack into Mrs. Hughes, and at this point you have to wonder how much of her situation she’s figured out already.

Violet and Mary have an awkward chat, where she informs her grandmother she won’t be bullied into making any decisions until she’s ready to do so, by Gillingham or her family. And I really can live forever without having to see the Dowager and Mary discuss the perils of females feeling physical attraction again, thank you.

Despite quarrelling with Sarah Bunting – who is of course present, because she hadn’t been in this episode yet – Rose’s Russians are pretty excited to get to see Robert’s Romanov artifacts. Comically so, In fact, there’s a lot to be said about how artless Julian Fellowes can be in his portrayal of certain groups and subgroups within proper English society, but this version of heavily accented, wide eyed, tsar-obsessed Russians feels kind of like a joke. Anyway, they love all the items, and cry over them, and get the Dowager Countess to recount the story of her trip to the Grand Duchess Marie’s wedding years ago. And, of course, it turns out what of the fans had once been the Dowager’s, which was a gift from a man she met at a ball in the Winter Palace. Of course, because this is like the most ridiculous twist possible, it turns out that man is one of Rose’s Refugees and is in Downton and is happy to recount the rest of the story to the group. And everyone’s shocked, because Violet and this random guy who turns out to be a prince know each other,  that there’s clearly some sort of potentially scanadalous history between them.

Mary smirks and tells her grandmother that she now knows she understands her man problems far better than she’s ever let on. Violet just looks at her, and every feeling I’ve ever had about these two women being the real kindred spirits of the family – because let’s be real, Mary is more Violet’s daughter than ever she’s Cora’s – is instantly validated.

Thoughts on this week? Scandalized by the Dowager’s past? Thoughts on where Mary's romantic future is heading now that Gillingham looks to be out of the running? Do tell. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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